Today, I’m turning the reigns over to my friend and fellow author, Johnny Worthen! I want you all to play nicely, okay?
Let me start by saying that this guy is one of the few people on the planet who gets my sense of humor (which makes HIS planet of origin highly suspect!). I recently began reading his upcoming novel BEATRYSEL, and while I’m only about half of the way in, I have been completely blown away from the writing style, the strength of the character development, and the excellent detail that is showcased in this work.
So here are a few enlightening and entertaining words from Mr. Worthen:
Writing with others – not for me.
When I was in college back when teachers wore mortarboard hats and robes and rode to school in chariots, I took a creative writing class billed as a “workshop.” That was my first taste of writing in groups, and I’m here to say, it was also my last.
I don’t write well with others.
I got an A in the class, that’s the kind of student I was – grubby grade groveling scholarship keeping academic whiz-kid, but I didn’t learn anything. No, that’s not true: I learned never to do that again.
Now don’t get me wrong, writing workshops are fine in some ways. Writers are by nature solitary creatures and a little bonhomie and community is a good thing – a necessary thing. It’s good to be exposed to others’ writing and helpful to hear what people think of yours.
The experience I had in that class not only spoiled my attitude toward writing groups, but it actually put me off writing for over a decade.
It was a terror literary politics, subjective criticism and stupid people. One didn’t like the fact that I used four syllable words when a two syllable word would do, like “luminescent” versus “glowing.” Another thought my villain was too mean. Did I mention he was the villain? Another thought that I’d stolen their idea because being drunk was obviously a unique experience. Some criticized the font I printed my stories in – “serif fonts are out of style, don’t you know.” Others admitted they didn’t like science fiction and so wouldn’t read past the title. And of course, being in Utah, I had litanies against the use of foul language and adult situations. What the hell?
The professor had the idea to let the students grade their classmates’ work and arrive at a grade in that way. I was on scholarship, remember, a tight 3.7 or better GPA, and couldn’t afford the D- I was destined for after the first week. Luckily, by the second week, the instructor recognized where his shit ideas was heading – no one was going to pass his course. Nobody. After one student criticized another for having juvenile alliteration, that author turned around and found new faults in that student’s paper, dropping their B to a low D because “they didn’t get it.”
Yeah. I know, right?
The professor took grading back into his own hands, promising A’s to everyone who participated and handed in all the work – content and quality notwithstanding.
Of course the politics still went on and the widely different levels of literary tastes and experience. I remember spending days trying to dumb down a two page story so the visiting exchange student from Longbortistan could understand the aquatic imagery. She never did.
When I turned to writing again, I knew to stay away from groups. I’d been there. Writing is a solitary event. There’ll be time enough for criticism when agents, editors and publishers have it – time enough and plenty enough. At least with them, I know they want my work to succeed, a different mindset entirely from my earlier experience.
I’d never have been able to write my debut BEATRYSEL in that environment. It’s too rough, the language too adult, the situations too disturbing, the language and verb-play too unusual, the use of epigraphs too outdated. The font too “fonty.”
I write. I write a lot, but I admit, I don’t write well with others.
Let’s all put our hands together for Mr. Worthen! Believe me, you can look forward to hearing more from this exceedingly talented guy! And check out BEATRYSEL at all your favorite book and ebook places! Johnny is a pretty awesome individual, and you can find out more about him here: http://www.johnnyworthen.com/